Keeping up with the chip shortage: reviewing component changes

Over the last 6 months, the global semiconductor shortage has been consistently making news for the wave of disruption that is causing across the hardware world. From automotive, to consumer electronics, virtually every hardware industry has had to scramble to find replacements for components ranging from sophisticated ICs to simple microcontrollers.

Replacing a component takes, however, more than just typing a new part number in our PLM, spreadsheet, or whatever tool our company uses for tracking bills of material. In the midst of these shortages, it is more important than ever to validate designs quickly and effectively to ensure that products stay on schedule.

Having a reasonably structured process reduces the risk of introducing unintended prototype or production errors that would render the weeks saved on lead time pointless.

Component validation steps

To demonstrate a recommended process, our team put together a component validation demo that hardware designers can use as a guide. Let's take a look at a simple example that illustrates the different steps involved:

1. BOM check

The first step in validation is to check component availability. Some companies upload their parts list to online sites like DigiKey, while others send them directly to their contract manufacturers (CMs).

2. Identifying out-of-stock (OOS) components

In this (open source) demo project, we have a 3pF ceramic capacitor that is flagged as an end-of-life component.

Original part flagged as OOS/EOL

3. Finding a replacement

After doing our research, we decide we'll swap the OOS components for a comparable capacitor.

Replacement part that is in-stock